Hans Ulrich Obrist: how to get ahead in the art world

Curator namechecks Caribbean writer as best inspiration for artists


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Following on from our story yesterday about Ryan Gander's desire to set up his own art school, contemporary art curator and co-director of exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, Hans Ulrich Obrist has weighed in with his own thoughts on how young artists can get the best out of their early years in an exclusive Phaidon video.

One of the most important people in the art world, the Swiss-born curator, who's one of the contributing editors of Phaidon's incredible Defining Contemporary Art, has long been an advocate for emerging artists. 

"I really do think artists are the most important people on the planet, and if what I do is a utility and helps them, then that makes me happy. I want to be helpful," he told London newspaper The Standard in 2009.

In the video he suggests young artists should read the books of Édouard Glissant who he refers to as a "toolbox for the 21st century." Martinican writer, poet and literary critic Glissant, who died aged in February aged 82, is a key, though underrated figure in postcolonial literature. His thinking sought to interrogate notions of identity, centre, origin and linearity and he's widely regarded as one of the most influential Caribbean thinkers and cultural commentators. He was close to two French philosophers, Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze and their theory of the rhizome.

Édouard GlissantWriter, poet and literary critic Édouard Glissant

The Phaidon bluffer's guide to the rhizome would run as follows: The rhizome is a root like structure that grows in every which way (think of it as a piece of ginger as opposed to a tree, which divides into branches and a clear, hierarchical structure).

So instead of thinking of concepts in isolation you have to think of them in terms of their relationship to other concepts. The idea of beginnings and ends tends to break down because everything is interdependent.



Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
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